The first musical of famed partners Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, Oklahoma! is set in Western Indian Territory just after the turn of the 20th Century. The spirited rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys provides the backdrop for the love story of farm girl Laurey Williams (Anoushka Lucas) and her courtship by two rival suitors, cowboy Curly McLain (Arthur Darvill) and farmhand Jud, the lonely outsider played with sad, watchful intensity by Patrick Davis Vaill. A secondary romance concerns cowboy Will Parker (James Patrick Davis) and the flirtatious gal, Ado Annie (Georgina Onourah).

Daniel Fish and co-director Jordan Fein have reinvented this 1943 musical, trying to give it a "fresh feel". Unfortunately, disconnection emerges, and it feels as if they couldn't decide which key reading to go for. Dialogues are delivered awkwardly: some characters follow a flat conceptual-like kind of acting (for instance unemotional speaking on dramatic situations), whereas others follow a regular descriptive kind of acting (for instance comedy banter). This creates a disjointed show, leaving more than one sequence puzzling to the audience.

Laura Jellinek and Grace Laubacher's set transforms Wyndham's theatre into a community centre/barn, with cans of beer and rifles hanging on the walls (although missing some more details to really ground the set).
The lighting is mostly shining bright in the audience's eyes, inconsequential, and it is not enjoyable; it could have been, instead, used to place characters in the scene.

The cast members are fairly strong. Darvill's Curly impresses with his singing. Lucas's portrait of a not-so-innocent woman thorn between two men could have flourished more and the dream ballet sequence at the beginning of the second act (choreographed by John Heginbotham), is too long, lacks meaning and purpose and does not appear to have any connection to the rest of the show.

Onourah's Annie, the “popular girl”, gives an outstanding rendition of “I can't say no”. With comedy banter, her character, along with Will Parker and Ali Hakim, manages to give a few moments of playful sparks.

The band, directed by musical director and accordion player Tom Brady play a stripped-back version of the score; they are fun, producing a captivating range of musical styles. 


Photo: Marc Brenner